Most common types of skin cancer increased 39% in past decade
Higher incidence rate linked to greater sun exposure
Dr Harry Comber said the increased rate of skin cancer could be linked to a general increase in the population’s exposure to sunlight since the 1980s.
The incidence rate of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) has risen by as much as 39 per cent in the last decade, figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland show.
A report published today found an average of 6,899 cases of invasive skin cancer were diagnosed each year between 1994 and 2011. Non-melanoma subtypes of skin cancer accounted for over 6,300 of these.
From the mid 1990s to early 2000s there was little overall change in the incidence of NMSC, with rates in females remaining fairly level and a slight decline in males. But rates have subsequently increased, and for both sexes current rates are between 33 per cent and 39 per cent higher than those in 2002, the report said.
Non-melanoma types of skin cancer are more common in older people and the majority patients were aged 60 or older when first diagnosed. The report said sun exposure was the primary risk factor for all skin cancers. The majority of tumours were found on patients’ faces, the area which experiences the most sun exposure overall.
The report said males were also more likely to have tumours in the scalp and neck and upper limbs, consistent with parts of the body most exposed during normal outdoor and work-related activities.
Dr Harry Comber, director of the National Cancer Registry, said the increased rate of skin cancer could be linked to a general increase in the population’s exposure to sunlight since the 1980s.
He said people started to sunbathe more instead of covering up at the beach while greater access to international travel also led to people experiencing a greater amount of sun exposure.
Despite the large number of cases diagnosed each year, there are very few deaths from NMSC, with an average of 50 patients a year dying since 1994, a mortality rate of just over 1 per cent.
“Non-melanoma skin cancer is highly treatable and almost all patients in Ireland between 1994 and 2010 were treated by simple surgical removal of the tumour with little other intervention,” the report stated.